French Light gives an international flavour to the action at Clonmel this afternoon as the gelding is American trainer Keri Brion’s first Irish runner since recently taking over the licence from her mentor, the legendary Hall Of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
Brion has a team of six horses in training at a satellite yard in Wexford including French Light who faces nine rivals in the Munster Rated Novice Hurdle.
The six-year-old gelding won a point-to-point at Boulta before switching to Sheppard to score twice over hurdles last year at Colonial Downs and Saratoga.
French Light also holds an entry in the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival, while Brion also has a Unibet Champion Hurdle entry in her care in the shape of Winston C.
“Ed Swyer, the owner of Winston C, was the one who had the idea to come over with him with the thought of maybe getting him to Cheltenham,” Brion said on the Nick Luck podcast.
“It has been a whirlwind over the last couple of weeks with Jonathan retiring and me taking over the licence but pretty exciting as well.
“Winston C won two Grade 1’s (in 2019) and it was talked about that he could be a Champion Hurdle type. He then had a minor injury and Grade 1 races (in America) were cancelled (last spring) due to Covid so he’s ended up here.
“He doesn’t travel great and it has taken him a while to settle in. He also had a little issue behind and had to miss a race at Punchestown on December 31.
“He’s really come to hand the last couple of weeks and has put on weight and looks great. We’ve picked out a race at Navan (January 23) and he’s kicking the barn down at the moment.
“The training we are doing here on the deep Wexford sand and on the beach will hopefully help the horses to get through the heavy ground.”
Sheppard is best known in National Hunt circles in this part of the world for saddling Flatterer to fill the runner-up spot behind See You Then in the 1987 Champion Hurdle.